At long last, Twitter has permanently banned Bill Mitchell from its little corner of the internet. Just not for the reasons you might think.
Mitchell, a vocal Trump supporter and QAnon adherent, was suspended on Friday night. A Twitter spokesperson confirmed the severity and reason for the suspension in an email to Mashable on Saturday.
“The account you referenced has been permanently suspended for violating the Twitter Rules by using one account to evade the suspension of another account,” the statement reads. The site’s own enforcement policy describes a permanent suspension as “our most severe enforcement action.”
The permanent suspension is a positive step for truth on social media, to be sure. Time and experience have shown again and again that de-platforming bad actors works. Take away the soapbox that offers easy access to hundreds of thousands of listeners (sometimes more!), and all of a sudden the spreader of misinformation and toxic views is rendered toothless.
What’s strange here is the final nail in Mitchell’s Twitter coffin. He committed the egregious offense of “using one account account to evade the suspension of another account.” That’s a bad practice, to be clear, and it’s good that Twitter responds with harsh action when it discovers an offender. The platform issued a wave of such suspensions back in 2018 for similar reasons.
But it’s still strange that this was the last straw for Mitchell. He’d obviously been suspended before, for other reasons. And while his official account page is now empty, a look at his history of deleted tweets, as tracked by PolitiTweet, reveals an account that’s been rife with aggressive remarks, misinformation, and outright lies over time.
On July 27, he manually retweeted a story from a far-right website that featured the video with the infamous “demon sperm” doctor (among others). A few days earlier, on July 23, he referred to the ongoing pandemic as the “Covid lie.” His recent slate of deleted tweets in general is marked by an abundance of anti-mask and anti-science sentiments.
In fact, he spent most of July decrying the value of efficacy of mask-wearing in the middle of a pandemic. Black Lives Matter and anti-racist protesters were more of a focus in June, when he called them “filthy anarchists” and non-citizens, and suggested that reparations are “a bribe to win [B]lack votes.”
The point is that any number of these tweets threaten to run afoul of Twitter’s rules. Mitchell’s aggressive behavior has at times fallen dangerously close to what the site defines as hateful conduct. His anti-masking rants and sharing of things like the demon sperm doctor video would seem to easily violate the rules Twitter established in May around the sharing of misinformation.
None of those tweets – and there’s years of them for you to look through – sent Mitchell packing. But his efforts to game Twitter’s suspension rules (which the site admittedly won’t detail) were a step too far.
That shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who follows Twitter’s enforcement tactics, but it’s always interesting to see an object example of where different offenses rank in terms of severity. In the end, Mitchell has been deprived of his platform and that’s a positive change. Good riddance to him. But it sure is upsetting to realize that gaming the system is a graver offense to Twitter than any of the bile he’s posted on the site over the years.
UPDATE: Aug. 15, 2020, 8 p.m. EDT An earlier version of this story mistakenly identified Bill Mitchell as a former member of the Illinois House of Representatives. There is a Bill Mitchell who served in the Illinois state legislature, but it’s not this one. We apologize for the error.